Changing landscape of self-employment in Australia

Australia’s employment landscape has changed in the past decade with traditional employers declining and part-time self-employment on the rise.
By: | December 20, 2023

The landscape of self-employment in Australia is undergoing a transformation marked by a decline in traditional business ownership and a rise in gig work, according to a report from the Australian Institute.

Over the past decade, the number of employers has decreased by 112,000, while there has been a surge of 35,000 part-time solo self-employed individuals and a decline of 91,000 full-time solo self-employed individuals, challenging the earlier predictions of self-employment dominance.

David Peetz, research fellow and author of Self Employment Myths & Realities, commented on the changing nature of self-employment. “Contrary to some predictions, self-employment has not taken over the world – but the nature of what self-employment means has changed,” he said.

The study underscored that part-time solo self-employment, often synonymous with gig work, is the only growing aspect of self-employment. Peetz emphasised its insecurity, low pay, and potential risks for employees.

“For someone wanting to be their own boss, it’s a lot harder these days to get a small business into markets,” he noted. “Big organisations aren’t keen to let them in. They’re a lot happier to just hire a contractor to do short gigs for them.”

READ MORE: Self-regulation might resolve Australian gig-economy woes better

The report outlined the challenges self-employed employees face, who are exposed to poorly regulated or non-existent workplace standards. Peetz advocated for setting standards and protections for gig employees without hindering innovation among the self-employed.

He also highlighted the significance of the government’s Closing Loopholes Bill, particularly its second tranche, in establishing a baseline for gig work standards. He stated that these protections strike the right balance between preserving the right to choose self-employment and preventing the exploitation of vulnerable employees.